The Wee Pictures goes digital for its centenary

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Nearly 100 years ago The Picture House in Campbeltown opened for the first time – described by The Campbeltown Courier as ‘an enterprise of a kind hitherto unknown in this district’.

This year, Thursday, 31st January 2013 will witness the end of the era of regular 35mm projection, as the cinema closes for the installation of digital projection equipment.

However, the old projector will be kept operable, particularly in the hope that the special  skills of a projectionist can still be passed on to future generations.

Campbeltown has been lucky to have a passionate exponent of that art in Russell Carroll, who has nurtured both his equipment and the historic building through the past 24 years, becoming the General Manager in 2000.

During the last 12 years he has passed on his art to a number of others, including Joyce Campbell, the Deputy General Manager.   The town has been amazingly fortunate in having these two stalwarts – and their part time assistants – keeping the cinema open six days a week, 52 weeks of the year over recent years.

‘The Wee Pictures’ has always been a community undertaking.

Forty one local shareholders invested in the original project and for the past 25 years volunteers from the community have run the business.

It is also thanks to the local people that it has been possible for digital projection equipment to be installed.

Eighteen months ago The Picture House won RBS’s Community Challenge, which kick started the fund raising effort with £6,000.

The cinema joined the Digital Funding Partnership, set up to help independent cinemas ‘go digital’.   Various fund raising events were held and generous donations received from local groups. With help from HIE, LEADER and Awards for All the total of nearly £100,000 has been raised.

This has been crucial. Even now, very few 35mm prints of new films are available. In the future,  it is understood that only five copies will be produced in this format for the whole of the UK. That would severely affect the availability of 35mm film to independent cinemas in remote locations like Campbeltown. So the new digital equipment will securely keep Campbeltown up to speed with the latest films.

Meanwhile the future of this priceless, historic building must be secured.

A meeting was held on 24th January, chaired by the head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, with representatives from Creative Scotland, Historic Scotland, Regional Screen Scotland and Campbeltown Community Business.

All of those present gave their support to finding a new solution to restore the building and make the business sustainable. It means going back to Square One with the complex process of applying for Heritage Lottery Funding funding – but all the development work undertaken during the past three years will not have been in vain. It will provide the foundation for the next application.

In the meantime, various centenary events and fund raising initiatives are on the projector.

The Centenary itself is on the day of MOKRun, Campbeltown’s hugely successful – another sell out – annual half marathon and 10k run –  Mull of Kintyre Run.

So guess what? The Campbeltown Community Business who are responsible for the determined communal push to secure the future of The Picture House, are encouraging folk who’ve signed up for MOKRun to ‘Run in Red’ for the Centenary Project.

Jane and David Mayo from the Community Business will be leading the charge – having committed themselves to the 10k run.

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